The new Driving Change bill has provided Florida residents with a set of more strict texting and driving laws to keep the roads safe. The Florida House voted to make texting and driving a number one offense. Governor Ron DeSantis has backed one of the biggest legislation of its kind in the Sunshine State and we have the texting and driving facts you need to be aware of.
This bill makes texting and driving a primary offense and that means you can be pulled over in Florida if you are caught tapping away at your phone while your car is in motion. You’re also not allowed to hold or use your cellphone in school or construction zones. There is absolutely no texting while driving in Florida, but tickets can be fought in the event you are pulled over.
Here are the facts about texting and driving in Florida that you need to know.
1. Florida is one of the Last States to Do This
Florida was one of the four remaining states to not make texting while driving into a primary offense. Florida’s Don’t Text and Drive Coalition is the first step toward eliminating texting while driving in 2013. Unfortunately, they were just one of the last states to finally make it happen.
South Dakota, Ohio, and Nebraska are officially the only states in America that consider the dangers of texting and driving as a secondary offense. Missouri restricts texting and driving to any drivers under 18 while Montana doesn’t have any enforcement at all. There are currently 16 states that have passed a complete “hands-free” law.
One of the most recent states passing the law was Georgia back in 2018. Arizona’s Gov. Doug Doucy recently signed a bill into law making the state a hands-free zone in 2021. And with the recent no texting while driving bill, Florida is well on their way to the same restrictions.
2. One of Florida’s Bills Co-Sponsor’s Relative Died Due to Distracted Driving
Second-year Rep. Emily Slosberg proved committed to her career as a lawmaker in Florida to her twin sister, Dori. On Feb. 23, 1996, the two siblings were involved in a fatal car crash where five teenagers were killed. Slosberg’s sister was only 14 years old when she passed away.
Representative Slosberg has spoken out about the bill, stating, “The reason I’m here is to honor her too,”. She made her final vote towards the bill, proving her dedication to highlighting the dangers of texting and driving. Her father Irv Slosberg also serves as a State Representative and was at the forefront of passing Florida’s mandatory seatbelt law.
3. Lawmakers Prove Concerned about Racial Profiling
During the debate about no texting while driving, lawmakers proved concerned ill-minded cops would use texting while driving to single out specific races. As an attempt to prevent that, there was additional language added to the bill requiring officers to document the ethnicity of the person with the citation. That data is then collected and sent out to the state every year.
Once a law enforcement officer issues a citation for texting while driving, the officer must also record the race and ethnicity of each violator. Every law enforcement agency has to maintain the information and report said information to the department, consistently. There was also a late addition to the bill requiring agencies to track the ethnicity of law enforcement officers issuing these citations.
4. Drivers Won’t Have to Give Their Cellphones to Officers Without a Warrant
One of the most important texting and driving facts is knowing your rights as a driver. If a driver is pulled over for texting while driving in Florida, officers must inform the driver of his or her right to decline a search of their cellphone. An officer must have a warrant or voluntary consent from the driver before searching through the driver’s phone.
There is, however, one exception to this rule. If there is an accident that results in injury or death, then the driver’s cellphone will be searched. Their billing records will be considered as admissable evidence of the case.
5. You’re Still Allowed to Use Bluetooth and GPS
There are exceptions to the laws of being on your phone, as long as it’s not in a construction or school zone where you’re not allowed to use your phone at all. However, if you’re not in a work or school zone you can still use your GPS. Lawmakers recommend having it mounted to prevent distractions while driving on the roads.
Rep. Jackie Toledo, who is also a co-sponsor, stated that Bluetooth is also allowed and is recommended to help keep drivers’ phone down completely. The law states that texting is manually typing or entering multiple letters, symbols, numbers, or other characters into a wireless communications device. Or sending/reading data on said device for the purpose of communicating through texting, e-mailing, and/or instant messaging.
6. The Bill Does Not Apply to Self-Driving Cars
The House and Senate bills will not apply to people who are operating autonomous vehicles. This is the one loophole to the texting while driving laws. One should expect to see this law change in the future, once self-driving cars become more common.
7. There is a Grace Period
If you receive your first offense to texting while driving, you’ll get a $30 fine. Your second offense will cost you twice as much ($60). And there will also be court costs and fees you’ll have to apply.
The grace period allows for warnings to be given out until January. After that period, officers can give out citations. The bill’s timeline states that between October 1, 2019, through December 31, 2019, law enforcement officers can stop motor vehicles to issue citations to persons who are in violations to inform and educate drivers on the bill.
Keep the Texting and Driving Facts in Mind
This new Florida bill that makes texting while driving a primary offense brings the state up to date with the times. Now that officers are allowed to ticket people for texting while driving, the dangers can be regulated and eventually eliminated. And with this new bill comes new statistics proving the benefits of regulating motorists this way.
For more texting and driving facts to be aware of, check out our blog today!